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Time Keeps On Ticking

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"And there's one more important piece of advice for you. So listen up! Time keeps on ticking even as you are reading this message!"
Yoshi's Island DS Time Trial mode message box

Sometimes a game timer continues going through events that in all fairness should not be affected by it, like cutscenes, an in-game notice, going through the inventory or even saving your progress. This is one of those things that averts a common and rather beneficial Acceptable Break from Reality. Sometimes, it's Played for Laughs.

May require you to possess a Bladder of Steel. Not to be confused with San Dimas Time.


  • In Animal Crossing: Wild World, when a villager gives you a package and a specific time limit for delivery, he means that amount of time. The games do run in real time, after all.
    • Another frustration in Wild World is the lack of a quick way to switch among various tools. Catching certain insects (bees and underground/rock-dwellers like the mole cricket and the pill pug) is annoying and difficult as they run away while you open the menu to grab your net. (The Nintendo GameCube game pauses bugs while some menus are open; City Folk and New Leaf let you switch tools with the Control Pad on the Wii Remote and the 3DS, respectively.)
  • In the first Baldur's Gate, the game would un-pause whenever you went into a character's inventory. The intent was to keep you from being able to do things like change armor during combat, but it was pretty frustrating when you forgot to, say, pre-equip a potion or arrows. This was fixed in the sequel; you were simply prohibited from changing armor during battle.
    • Fortunately, you could start it as a multiplayer game even without other players joining to keep it from doing that.
  • In Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, once you begin a level and that 30-minute timer starts, there is absolutely no way to stop it. Whether it's pausing, fiddling with your inventory at the Grimoire, everything keeps going in real time. Yes, that means the gameplay keeps going, so if you're pausing, you'd best make sure no enemies are nearby.
  • In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alucard's initial stats depend on, among other things, how fast you beat the opening battle with Richter. However, the timer keeps going while Richter and Dracula are talking, and you cannot skip this conversation unless you have already beaten the game once. Hence, it is impossible to get the best initial stats unless you are doing a replay.
  • In Dead Rising, you have to talk to survivors before they join your party. There are a few painfully long conversations through which you have to mash the A button while the clock ticks down on other survivors in the mall.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, the final stage, Hideout Helm, has you racing against the clock to shut down K. Rool's Blast-O-Matic before it fires and vaporizes DK Island. The timer (and music) doesn't stop even when you're using a Tag Barrel to switch characters, or when you play a minigame (complete with introduction and explanation) to damage part of the Blast-O-Matic, or even during unskippable animations and scene transitions. The only thing that stops time is pausing the game outright.
  • Etrian Odyssey has the In-Universe Game Clock continue to tick even when you're in mid-battle. This becomes a big problem in that super-powerful enemies called FOEs roam the map as time passes, and will not stop or wait for you to finish your battle to chime in. Failure to pay attention to the map can lead to a routine "grind for EXP" battle turning into running for your lives.
  • Fallout 4 usually pauses the game fully when you look at your Pip-Boy menu, with one notable exception in the Far Harbor expansion. If you resolve the Children of Atom's questline by giving High Confessor Tektus the launch key for the ICBM-equipped submarine in their cult headquarters, you can convince him to embrace "Division" and engage in nuclear mass-suicide by launching the missile inside the sub pen. If you check your Pip-Boy afterward, you'll find that the PA system is continuing the countdown in the background, while your current quest description reads "I triggered the countdown to launch the nuke! I need to get out of the sub bay! Why am I still reading this?!"
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In any of the games with timed missions in them, the timer keeps running while you're in the menu screen, although you can stop it by pausing in battle. In fact, the mission timer will usually cover up the total game time in the main menu, just to drive home the point that you had better use items and equip your party fast. The timer can be crippling in some re-releases, partly because of extended loading times. Especially on the Playstation releases, where loading a battle can take upwards of 5-7 seconds during which the timer is still running, the previously generous timers are suddenly much more restrictive.
    • In Final Fantasy V, at one point you have to escape a castle before it explodes. Just when you think you're out, you get ambushed by a boss that insists on talking to you before attacking while the timer is still counting down. If you don't beat the boss before the timer ends, you're done for.
    • Final Fantasy VI:
      • Before the banquet, you are given four minutes to talk to as many soldiers as possible. If you come across Kefka, he gets an extended conversation that uses up 20 seconds minimum. What's more, Kefka doesn't count as a soldier in the final tally — the only reason you're allowed to talk to him is as a trap to use up time.
      • You have to stop Ultros from dropping a weight on Celes, which he helpfully states it will take him five minutes to finish moving. Between your party and him is a walkway infested with rats, which trigger unescapable battles when touched. Even with high enough levels (which you really don't want because of the Esper stat bonus you can't gain yet) and good equipment, you still have to figure out how to encounter as few enemies as possible to even make it to him.
    • When stopping the train in Final Fantasy VII, the timer elapses while two NPCs have a long conversation with you. Probably done deliberately, since if you actually take the time to read all of the dialogue in that scene instead of button-mashing through it, there's no way you'll be able to stop the train before the counter reaches 0.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has more than one Timed Boss, with the timer extending a bit before the boss fight. These timers continue while in the party status menu. In case of Ifrit, it also continues through the post-battle info screen and GF naming screen which can be exploited to maximize the initial SeeD rank. In case of BGH251F2, the timer does pause in cutscenes where the party is on-screen, but not in the off-screen sequences.
  • In Half-Minute Hero, Normal difficulty stops the clock inside towns, but if you try to turn back time without having the money to pay for it (the cost of which increases every time you use it), the Time Goddess, in addition to taking all of your equipment, stops messing with time to help you - no more rewinds, the clock runs normally in towns - making this a Desperation Attack. On Hard, time never stops.
  • Mass Effect 3 has a mission in a spaceship hangar where the enemy tries to gas you out. To stop it, you have to get to a control panel on the floor above. However, you will die if you take too long, and the actual use of the control panel takes place in a cutscene. But the timer doesn't stop. You can actually get a Critical Mission Failure right in the middle of the cutscene.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid: Liquid sets up a bomb that goes off in three minutes, then talks about what Snake could spend that time doing, wasting thirty seconds of the time, and giving you just 2:30 to beat him. If you fail and die, then continue, or skip the cutscene, you get the full three minutes.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: During the big cutscene before the Volgin fight, Snake has just set the building up to explode. Volgin goes on a classic Metal Gear villain Motive Rant, but The Sorrow spends much of the cutscene holding up a timer to remind you of how long you have left. If you skip the cutscene, you'll have time from then to defeat Volgin with. In harder difficulty modes, there's a danger of the bomb actually going off during the cutscene and killing you unless you skip it early on.
  • Metroid games generally keep the timers of their (frequent) timed missions going during elevators and cutscenes, but thankfully freezes the timer when you pause the game.
  • Ōkami's timed missions allow you to pause the game with no benefit, but using the Celestial Brush (which freezes everything on screen) doesn't stop the clock. This is justified, though, since you are actually doing things with that time.
  • In Ori and the Blind Forest, the game timer continues running during the prologue, the cutscenes, and the end credits; the first two of which are skippable, the last of which is not; so even if you technically completed the game in under three hours, you may miss out on the "Supersonic" achievement due to the time lost during these.
  • In Chapter 2 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, after Lord Crump activates the self-destruct sequence in the Great Tree, the timer keeps ticking even while you're fighting the Mooks that get in your way. Heck, it even keeps going while the Puni elder is shouting at him. Fortunately, it does pause on the menu screens.
  • Perfect Dark has a level that does the opposite — to get a cheat, you have to do it in a certain time, but there is a part where you are forced to wait for a door to unlock that takes nearly half that time. If you start the lock and then start a cutscene, the door keeps unlocking but the level timer pauses.
    • There is another unrelated, but very annoying example in the level Area 51: Infiltration. Immediately skipping the cutscene leads you to discover that the guards were walking in a real time game during the cutscene; you were just invisible. Just so happens skipping the opener right away has a guard already staring at you with a sentry gun and two more guards just slightly to your right. So, to be safe, you get to watch the minute and a half or so cutscene all the way through every time you fail!
  • Persona:
    • Persona 2: Innocent Sin has a bit where you have to defeat a boss, find a certain item and then escape a building before it explodes. This whole thing is on a timer which runs even while the menu's open, and you can't save during it.
    • Persona 5 has this as a recurring mechanic through the fifth palace. At first, you have to stop hydraulic presses so that you can walk across them. These have a 30 second timer, which will count down even if you get into a battle or open a dialogue box. At the end, an emergency countdown is begun so the boss has time to evacuate. This counts down continuously for 10 minutes, and if you do any battles, the timer will cut into them. The boss itself is timed for 30 minutes, with the counter continuing during attack animations, status buffs, choosing skills, and switching Personas.
  • Played painfully straight in Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. Pausing the game does not pause the timer on the Leapgate-hacking game.
    • Also the original Puzzle Quest, which only really matters when your turn is on a timer (i.e. training mounts).
  • Summer Carnival '92 Recca does the same as the "Caravan" example above, but in all of its modes, as the game was originally developed for an event.
  • Resident Evil 4: During the Escape Sequence after Saddler's defeat, the timer will continue depleting even during cutscenes. It makes Ashley's panic over learning about the incoming island explosion all the more reasonable.
  • The Silent Scope series has this. Plus instant Game Over upon time-out, and time extensions dependent on skill.
  • Sonic Forces is one of the few Sonic the Hedgehog games in which the timer continues to run during cutscenes in the middle of stages, though it isn't always consistent. This is important to know when playing Timed Missions. Boss battles are particularly susceptible to this, as every boss fight has both a cutscene introducing the boss and another cutscene for the final blow; it's very much possible to go over the time limit in the midst of a cutscene because in some boss battles, the timer stops only when the last cutscene ends.
  • Star Wars Rogue Leader had this. Its sequel didn't.
  • During timed comet challenges in Super Mario Galaxy, the timer doesn't stop until you touch the star at the end of the level (not, say, when you've collected the 100th purple coin), which leads to many a Kaizo Trap for those who aren't paying attention. Thankfully this was removed in Super Mario Galaxy 2... with the timer now stricter than ever.
  • "Caravan" modes in Star Soldier games keep the timer going even if the game is paused. This serves two purposes: First, Hudson ran a series of score attack events and keeping the timer running even during pause prevented one single player from hoarding the game. Second, this prevents Pause Scumming, punishing players who try to pause the game to take their time.
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl have this during the pause screen in some areas, like the Target Tests. Probably justifiable in that case, as pausing the game also gives you a good look at where all the targets are.
  • Time Crisis 1 is a similar case to Silent Scope above. Successive games reset the timer and keep it locked until the "ACTION" prompt shows up.
  • Tomb Raider: Anniversary has some cutscenes that where the clock keeps ticking during Time Trials.
    • This is particularly annoying with door-unlocking cutscenes. To exit the "St. Francis Folly" and "Midas" levels, you must open multi-stage locks. Each stage of unlocking has its own cutscene that takes up time.
    • However, the clock does not keep running during interactive cutscenes, aka "action events", where the right key must be pressed at the right time during the cutscene.
  • In Twisted Metal 2, pausing the game did not suspend projectiles in the air (notable exception: rolling ricochet bombs), so you could get hit by a missile and die on the pause screen! This worked both ways: if an enemy was about to dodge your shot, press pause and it freezes your target so you get an easy hit.
  • Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 has the timer continue during the cut scene before the final boss, and Wario Land: Shake It! has it continue in the rather long cutscene between the two phases of the final boss battle.
  • Word Crunch, a game on the now-defunct platform Sky Games, has its' timer continuing to go down even when you pause the game. It doesn't even help that the message reads, "Remember! The clock is still ticking!".
  • World of Goo has an intro screen showing the name of each level which cuts into the level play time; this can be avoided by pressing retry immediately after starting (especially useful when you are on a level that needs to be done within a certain time limit to get full completion.)
  • Yoshi's Island DS, the Trope Namer, actually mocks the player with this in Time Trial mode. The first message box you hit in that mode contains a fairly lengthy message, and only at the end of it does it mention that the timer was still going this whole time. Future message boxes are replaced by simpler taunts just saying things like "Lost time!"
  • The whole of the Where's Waldo? NES game is a Timed Mission, with the timer going down even during the level transitions. (Which are unskippable, in case you're wondering.)

Non-Video Game Examples:

  • In Dinner: Impossible, the timer starts ticking almost as soon as the head chef meets the people for whom he's supposed to cook.
  • 24. This is quite telling when it's recut for non-American television and the commercials are missing (meaning 24 becomes about 18...)
  • Family Feud also has this, but the timer is not nearly as strict. (The timer doesn't start until the host finishes asking the first question, and the timer is generally paused if the host is unable to get the next question out—generally, when a contestant gives a ridiculous answer that causes the host to corpse).
  • Finders Keepers: During the Romp, once the clock started, it ran continuously, even while teams were moving on to the next room. This put a premium on getting to the next room quickly. A wrong turn, especially when moving to the upper floor or lower floor could end up torpedoing the team. More blatant in the UK version, where the host would often hold up the team until they shouted out the answer to the clue. In the US, the host would read the clue and let the team get on with it (occasionally asking the team what they were looking for as they were going about it). Good thing, too, since 90 seconds is quite brutal enough without the team having to shout out the answer.
  • In the second season of GSN's Hellevator, once your time in the Inferno Run starts, it does not stop, even when you're between challenges putting your winnings into the bag provided, listening to the rules of the challenge, freeing your teammates from the Inferno cell, or making your way back to the Hellevator.
  • The final round of Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego involved competitors trying to get through a maze of gates. In order to open a gate, a question had to be answered correctly, the questions were not all the same length, and the voice asking them spoke rather slowly (it was noted on a few occasions that each question chewed up six seconds of the player's time. The player had a total of 90 seconds, which didn't stop while the question was being asked.
  • When Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had the clock format in 2008-2010, the time started counting down when the answers were displayed on screen. Since the limit for the first question was a mere 15 seconds, this resulted in a handful of instances where the contestant almost ran out of time because of reactions to the joke D answers.
  • This was one of the main attractions of Unus Annus. No matter how long it takes you to watch all 365 videos, the channel will be deleted in its entirety a year after it was creatednote . If you missed out prior to that, tough luck.
  • At least one team lost on the 2021 relaunch of Legends of the Hidden Temple because of a Mythology Gag where Kirk Fogg showed up to cheer them on... with the timer still running while he forced them to stop for his cameo.